EC slips on updating voter list
Many prospective voters will be deprived of their franchise rights in April 2 by-polls as the Election Commission (EC) failed to update the voter roll according to the stipulated deadline of January 31.
As per the electoral roll law, it was mandatory for the EC to update the voter list across the country from January 2 to 31 this year.
People who turned 18 on January 1 and eligible people who were not listed earlier should have been enlisted on the roll. Similarly, those who had died by the date should have been excluded from the list.
But the EC failed to begin the task within the specified timeframe incorporated in the law according to EC's own proposal.
Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain told The Daily Star over phone yesterday that the commission could not begin the task within the stipulated timeframe as it was busy with the upazila election in January.
"We shall ask the government to amend the electoral laws so that the commission can begin the task of updating the voter list at an appropriate time of this year," Sohul said.
The new electoral laws, made by the immediate-past caretaker government through promulgation of an ordinance and ratified by the present government in February last, did not have any provision for the EC to withhold updating the voter list within the timeframe.
The previous Electoral Roll Ordinance 1982, which was repealed through the enactment of the new one, contained a provision allowing the EC to make decision, if necessary, for not updating the voter list in a specific year.
However, now the EC plans to begin the massive task of updating the voter list across the country from next June or July without help of the armed forces that worked actively for preparing the current roll with photographs, said EC Secretariat sources.
But to hold elections to a large number of local government bodies -- around 4,500 union parishads, 303 municipalities and Dhaka City Corporation -- the EC might be compelled to suspend the plan, EC Secretariat officials said.
If the EC begins updating the voter list as per its plan, it might have to shelve the plan for holding the long overdue elections to the local government bodies, officials added.
The EC last February completed a pilot project of updating the voter list with photographs in some areas in Manikganj, without help of the armed forces.
The armed forces' role in preparing a flawless voter list with photographs in 2007-08 had been widely lauded.
"The commission will review the implementation of the pilot project and find out the weaknesses," said a senior official at the EC Secretariat wishing anonymity.
The official said the EC would finalise the strategy to update the voter list on the basis of the lessons learnt from the pilot project.
The voter list with photographs was prepared in 2007-08, registering people who were 18 and above on January 1, 2008.
But on January 1, 2009, a year later, many young people became eligible for being registered as voters.